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Religious Beliefs

The Aztecs had many beliefs. They believed the sun fought darkness every night and rose to save mankind. They believed the earth was flat. They believed that if they fed the sun blood, it would rise. They also believed in 13 heavens and 9 hells. The Aztecs respected their gods very much. They put their greatest efforts into making strong, beautiful temples to please their gods. Their arts had a part in their religion. They drew pictures that told about their gods. They recorded religious events with hieroglyphics and even number symbols. The Aztecs worshipped about 1,000 gods! But they worshipped the sun god the most. Religious ceremonies took place in a temple called a teocalli. This temple had sacred pools for ceremonial cleansing, gardens, living quarters for a priest, and racks to hold the skulls of victims. Religion played a great part in Aztec life. Sacrifice was one of the main events in the Aztec religion. Priests made human sacrifices to make the sun god happy. Aztecs fought in wars to capture men to sacrifice. On God's Feast Day, they killed their slaves for the gods. Human sacrifices

were offerings to the sun and earth so that food would grow. On the night of the O' Nothing Days, O' priests would dress up as the supreme gods and wait on the top of an extinct volcano. When the evening star reached the top of the sky, the priests would stretch the captive over an altar, or a special stone. Then the high priest would light a fire on the victim's heart and tear it out. After the heart is cut, the priest would hold the heart to the sun, then put it in a sacred dish. Finally, the bodies were rolled down the temple stairs to lie in a heap. Even after that, most victims were happy to die because they thought they would go straight to heaven. The Aztecs strongly believed in the afterlife. It was the way the Aztecs died rather than the way they lived that determined whether they would go to the sun god or go to the dark and dismal underworld. If a person died a normal death, his or her soul would have to pass through the nine lives of the underworld before reaching Mictlan, the realm of the dead. A warrior who died in battle or a woman that died in childbirth would go straight to the sun god in the sky.

The head of the gods was Huizilopochtlid, god of war and god of sun. This god had told the Aztecs to wander until they found an eagle with a serpent in its mouth perched on a cactus growing from a rock. When they found this, they claimed the area around it, which is now known as Tenochtitlan. The Aztecs worshipped Tlaloc, the rain god, in the main temple. This god was very important to farmers because drought was a threat in the area. Quetzalcoatl was a feathered snake who represented arts, crafts, and self-sacrifice. Priests and priestesses were very important people. They acted as doctors, and taught science, art, writing, music, dance, history, and counting. They also had to know astronomy and astrology. They had to perform difficult ceremonies. Religion played an important part in Aztecs' lives, and human sacrifice was used to pay homage to their gods.